As I stated in the previous article, it’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling a snake or anything in its enclosure. This is because reptiles and amphibians are often hosts to salmonella. Washing your hands prevents you from getting infected because the only way you can become infected is by ingesting the bacteria. Washing your hands after you handle your pet therefore pretty much guarantees you won’t get salmonella from touching your pet.
Salmonella is actually quite common, and many household cats, dogs, and other pets even have it. Not every snake has salmonella, just like not every dog or cat has it, but it’s a good idea to be cautious around your pet just in case it does host bacteria, especially since it’s nearly impossible to tell whether your pet has salmonella just by looking at it. Although salmonella is relatively common in pets, it’s important to note that it’s much more likely you will get a salmonella infection from eating contaminated food than from interacting with your pet.
Although common, salmonella is not as dangerous as you may think. In the United States, there are approximately 142,000 reported incidents (and many, many more unreported incidents) of salmonella infection per year, and on average, only around 30 people die from it. Regularly, a person will only suffer from diarrhea if they have been infected with salmonella, and symptoms usually only last 1-3 days. When a person has a severely weakened immune system, however, their bodies will find it much harder to get rid of the bacteria, and in these cases, a person may die from salmonella.
Since in most cases salmonella will give you little more than a bad case of diarrhea, salmonella is not an incredibly dangerous problem, but it is best to be on the safe side and wash your hands. Certainly be more cautious about young children and older adults, as well as those with weak immune systems, washing their hands after holding a snake or anything a snake has touched. If you wash your hands with soap and water immediately after playing with a snake, you should be perfectly healthy, regardless of whether or not your pet has salmonella.